Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Our Journey into Homeschooling, Part One

I always wanted to be a teacher. And I always loved history. So becoming a history teacher was just a natural decision. I majored in social studies education and minored in English, so I was qualified to teach both.

I taught in a Christian school in West Virginia for 4 years, then moved to South Carolina and taught there for a year. When Charles and I married, we moved to Alabama and I took a break from teaching until the children were preschool age. Our church's Christian school was looking for a history teacher and I was ready to re-enter the teaching world. It seemed like perfect timing.

The first year back was exciting. I loved being in the classroom. And my children were attending preschool on the same campus, so we carpooled. Hee hee! But I found out very quickly that teaching as a single woman and teaching as a married woman with two young children were entirely different. The extracurricular activities that I gladly volunteered for as a single teacher now ate away at my time with my family. The paper grading that didn't seem tedious when I was unmarried now consumed my spare time and left me with precious little for my own children. But I couldn't NOT give 100% as a teacher. I didn't do things halfway. And in the process my own children got very little of me.

Our days started out early. I had to be at school by 7:00 am for teacher's meeting (and I was there on time with few exceptions), so that meant we had to leave our house by 6:30 to give me time to drop off the kids before I headed to my building. I had to get them up before 6:00 every day (not an easy feat!) so they would have time to dress and eat. Most days they ate string cheese or poptarts in the van on the way to school. It was stressful, to say the least.

We got home from school around 3:30 each day. I was exhausted. The kids wanted me to pay attention to them, but I was too tired or I had papers to grade. And then they had homework. Yes, K-4 and K-5 students brought home homework nearly every night. It was a battle to get the Princess to read to me or do her worksheets. She simply didn't want anything to do with school when the school day was over. To top it off, my husband was working out of town quite a bit, so during the week I was a single mom trying to balance teaching and parenting. And failing miserably at it!

The kids argued ALL. THE. TIME. I was short-tempered with them and Charles. But I got all my school work done. My family suffered, but I was determined to be the best teacher ever.

The start of the second year was even worse. Mr. Lego got in trouble every day at school for talking or goofing off. He would finish his seatwork quickly, then try to entertain his 19 classmates to stave off his boredom. We were constantly trying to think of ways to motivate him to be good in school. Taking away privileges didn't work. Spanking him didn't work. Nothing. I mean, if he's bored, he's bored. I don't fault his teacher in any way. She had 20 students to deal with, many of whom needed her attention more than he did. It was so frustrating for me as a parent. I knew my child wasn't a troublemaker at heart. He just needed an outlet for his energy and creativity that he wasn't getting in a crowded classroom.

As each week went by, I was getting more cranky and tired. More arguing between the children. More stress and exhaustion. But I was going to see this through. Because I was a teacher. That's what I was called by God to do. If I quit, I would be a failure. That wasn't an option.

Then I got a medical diagnosis that changed everything. I was diagnosed with pernicious anemia and told that stress would make my symptoms worse. Really? Worse than the complete exhaustion I felt? Worse than the constant irritability I unleashed on my family? My doctor advised me to stop teaching. I balked. Teaching was my calling! How could I abandon it?

That's when the idea of homeschooling crept in. I say crept because it was a gradual process. Never once in all my years of training and teaching had I ever considered it. I was trained to be a classroom teacher. My goal was to reach students with the love of Jesus and help mold them into honorable, godly young people. I couldn't turn my back on those kids who needed me.

But the more I considered it, the more appealing homeschooling became. We wouldn't have to leave home at the crack of dawn. We could work at our own pace. We could spend time together as a family, learning instead of arguing. Still, there were doubts. I taught junior high and high school. My kids were going into K-5 and first grade, way below what I was used to. What if I messed them up academically? And don't forget, those students at the Christian school who needed me. (Sounds a lot like pride, doesn't it?)

Almost as if He had written in the sky, God showed me that I wasn't abandoning teaching if I homeschooled my children. I was simply shifting my focus from everyone else's kids to my own. They needed me, more so than the students about whom I was so concerned.

The moment I broached the subject of homeschooling with my husband, he was on board. When he wasn't on the road, he worked from home and he needed some quality time with the kids, too. More importantly, he needed his wife back. I had poured so much of myself into my students that there was virtually nothing left for him. It was unfair and wrong of me to put teaching before my husband and children. And there was no getting around it. I had done that very thing. I had let teaching replace my family as my top priority.

And so our decision to homeschool was made. But that's not the end of the story. I still had to tell my employer I wouldn't be returning next year. I'll post Part Two later.


  1. I loved reading this part of your story! It's always encouraging to hear how God leads and guides. Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. You have pernicious anemia too??? Small world! I do as does my Mom and Aunt too! It's an awful thing, sorry to hear you have it.

    I have adrenal fatigue and if it gets too bad it always aggravates my anemia as well.

    Great story!